Windows 8.1 - An Excellent Upgrade

Windows 8 image By James Dalton

October 17 is now the published date you will be able to upgrade your Win8 or WinRT OS to Windows 8.1 for FREE.

October 18 is the date when retailers will begin selling Microsoft’s newest client OS.

The 8.1 release is a significant upgrade, substantially more robust than a traditional Service Pack, and it provides some very welcome additional functionality to the current Windows 8 OS including:

  • Option to boot to the Desktop instead of just to the Start screen
  • Aggregated search results displays
  • Ability to customize the Start screen displays
  • Enhanced domain client services


On the display side, desktop users will appreciate having the choice of landing on the Desktop OR the Start screen when Win 8.1 boots up. From the Desktop, the Start Button has returned, in its familiar position, and a click on it will deliver access to the Start Screen. (You no longer have to hover in the lower right corner of the interface to open the Charms display.)

Microsoft also proclaims that accessing the Control Panel from the desktop will be a thing of the past, as the Start Screen PC Settings app will offer access to all of the control panel functions.

Touch Screen

Aficionados of the Start touch screen will also laud the Start screen’s customization features. The Start screen now offers users the ability to customize the size and display of App Tiles, apply new Themes and Backgrounds and use a new set of ‘snap’ options for arranging open Apps.

The Screen Lock option will also allow users to deliver a ‘digital frame’ slide show of image files. The Search charm will now open an aggregated search display of results from the user’s always available SkyDrive, apps, files, control panel and more. What is particularly useful is that the Search charm will overlay on top of the desktop screen, offering a blended experience. Access to SkyDrive content will likely also be available when users are working offline.

Enterprise Users

There’s good news for Enterprise users as there are several new Windows 8.1 features for client/server services. The Workplace Join functionality allows a user to BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and benefit from functions such as accessing Virtual Applications, Tap-to-pair and wireless Printing and delivering Miracast wireless presentations.

For domain administrators the Workplace Join feature provides for security screening of the portable device and extensive Mobile Device Management. Desktop Shadowing is a service that takes advantage of a Remote Desktop Shell and allows administrators real time access to Win 8.1 clients while users are logged on. Tablets can also be configured to run only a single Windows App (called Assigned Access), thereby enforcing a specific functionality for a particular device. Client side Hyper-V is fully functional and Win 8.1 ships with the newest version of PowerShell - 4.0.

Internet Explorer 11

Internet Explorer 11 will be the default browser for Win 8.1. Microsoft envisions enhanced browser security, embedded anti-malware, side by side browsing, as well as faster performance will establish IE 11 as a user’s choice browser interface. The IE 11 application running as a tile from the Start menu will execute a 64 bit version, while the IE 11 that runs from the Desktop interface will run a 32 bit version.

8.1 > 8.0

I can say with certainty that Windows 8.1 is a significant improvement over Windows 8. There is every argument for upgrading your current Windows 8 device to 8.1, whether you are a home user or a desktop administrator. And there’s one last IMPORTANT reason to upgrade: its FREE!

If you want to get a head start and install a free Windows 8.1 Preview Edition, Microsoft has made the Windows 8.1 Release Preview ISO image available for download from the following link:

There you will also find the OEM key.  But as the full release date for 8.1 will be in October, you should expect to see some significant differences between the Preview Edition and the full product.

James Dalton

Microsoft MCT



Jim Pic
James Dalton is a Learn iTMicrosoft Certified Trainer with over 15 years of experience as a solutions developer, consultant, and teacher of networking, applications and Microsoft server solutions for various universities and private companies in the San Francisco Bay Area. His certifications include Microsoft IT Pro for Server 2008SharePoint, and Windows 7.